So you’re planning to visit the rose festival and are a foreigner wondering what transport to use to get there? Fear no more, in this post I will list the possible ways you can get to the festival and the pros and cons of each as well as some advice and tips on traveling in Bulgaria. Before you embark on traveling through Bulgaria, we advise you to get an Internet plan for your smartphone so you can easily check your schedule and directions. Bon voyage!
Reaching the Rose Festival by Train
If you chose this option, the Bulgarian National Railways (БДЖ/BDZ) are the way to go. Click here to visit the English version of their website and check the daily schedule for trains.
Click here to see the Google maps directions to the train station in Kazanlak.
Traveling by train in Bulgaria is quite the adventure. I might even say, it has a certain charm to it. You will get to see Bulgaria’s landscapes and the colorful variety of the people who travel with trains.
And it is cheap, really cheap. That is why I’d advise you to get a first class ticket.
Most of the trains in Bulgaria are not new and modern as not many Bulgarians use trains and the railways are finding it hard to renovate their facilities.
Another thing to have in mind is that the signs, labels and time schedules at the stations may be only in Bulgarian or simply – not there. To add to that, you might find it hard to find someone who speaks English in order to help you. If you find seek some assistance, try asking younger people, that would increase your chances. Make notes of the trains, stops and schedule of your trip so you can more easily navigate through the railway network.
If you plan to use trains, try to get the ones which don’t change on intermediary stations as you might find it hard to orientate (due to the reasons explained in the paragraph above) or you might miss your next train because the one you were on was late. You might find yourself in a situation where there are no more trains leaving to your next destination this day and you’d have to find other means of transportation.
And finally, apart from hitchhiking, walking and cycling, train transportation is your slowest option.
Before you continue, make sure to read our thorough guide to the 2018 Rose Festival
The Bus Option
Click here for the Google maps directions to the Kazanlak bus station (it is a minute walk from the Kazanlak train station.
Traveling by bus is similar to traveling by train. It is a bit faster, a bit more comfortable and in most cases, the bus stations are better organized, with buses leaving more often as well as the location of the bus stations is usually in close proximity to the city center. Also, there is a better choice of companies which provide bus transport as the sector is private.
For me, traveling by bus is like flipping a coin, you can either get an air-conditioned and comfortable bus with a TV or a bus as old as you where the air-conditioning is simply opening any window. And during the end of May and early June, it is quite hot in Bulgaria (25-35 degrees Celsius).
Compared to a few years back, the prices of bus tickets have risen quite a lot and in some cases, these prices may be equal or greater than the gas you pay for traveling by car.
Getting there by Car
In this case, you might be using your own car or rent one. In both cases, make sure you meet driving regulations and requirements in Bulgaria. The Rose Valley is approximately 2 to 3-hour drive from all the major cities which have an airport (Sofia, Varna and Burgas, Plovdiv is 1.5 hours drive away).
If you travel by car you can visit every event and location in the rose valley easily. Anywhere you go you can find a free parking spot in a 5-minute proximity to the place you want to visit. Even if you choose to use a paid parking, the rates are relatively cheap.
If you choose to rent a car, make sure you choose a licensed and reputable rent-a-car agency which would provide you with all the needed documentation.
There are plenty of gas stations around the country and most of them have a small grocery shop and cafe where you can relax from all the traveling.
The roads in Bulgaria are getting better in terms of having proper signs, labels and marking yet there is room for improvement. Be careful of the occasional holes on the road, the highways and inter-city roads are mostly good, but inner city street roads may have Mars-terrain type of holes every now and then, so keep an eye on the road.
It hurts me to say it, but you should park your car in well-lit, high populated areas. I personally haven’t had any experience with car thieves but having a car with foreign registration might make you an extra lucrative target. Also, don’t leave any expensive items on a visible spot in your car, put a scarf on your phone or camera or leave them in the glove compartment.
Choosing a Taxi
This one goes for both choosing to travel by taxi from one city to another as well as using a taxi to travel in, say, the city of Kazanlak. If you find yourself in a situation where you get in a taxi and the driver doesn’t understand you, try to show them the address you want to get to on your phone or written on a piece of paper.
Which taxi agency to use?
We suggest using an agency with fixed rates. If you are in the capital or other major cities in Bulgaria, look for a taxi provider online, those with established websites are the ones you can trust. Do not use those taxis which await you in front of airports, train or bus stations as they would surely try to rip you off big time!
Usually, a taxi trip in Sofia will cost you 5-15 levs (2.5-7.5 euro) depending on the distance.
When it comes to calling a taxi in Kazanlak, I personally use those two: 0431 6143 and 0431 6146 (have in mind the international phone code for Bulgaria is +359). As to other cities, you can ask a Bulgarian friend of yours or google local taxis in the city you are in, the ones that provide a free call back or online booking are the ones you want to use.
Taxi in Kazanlak usually cost 1.5-2.5 levs, depending on the distance.
Similar to traveling by car, a taxi would get you anywhere. When traveling from point A to point B in a city, a taxi ride is usually cheap. For example, in Kazanlak, you can get to any point in the city area фор around 2 levs (1 euro).
In smaller cities, the chance of finding a taxi dispatcher who speaks English or another foreign language is small, so if you can, ask a Bulgarian friend of yours to call a taxi for you. I would not recommend using a taxi to travel from one city to another as that would be quite expensive. If you still choose to do that, try to bargain and reach a relatively good price and of course, make sure the taxi is part of a reputable, legitimate taxi agency.
A few other options I can think of are walking and cycling. If you’re walking, you might want to go through the southern side of Stara Planina (the mountain that cuts Bulgaria in half). In this way, you will go through the whole Rose Valley and see it’s beauty.
If you’re cycling, you can either go through the sub-mountain highway which goes from Sofia to Burgas, the Shipka road which goes from Gabrovo to Kazanlak, Hain Boaz which goes from Veliko Tarnovo to Kazanlak and finally, from Stara Zagora to Kazanlak which is the road coming from the south side of the Rose Valley.
I hope this article was of help to you, if you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment on the Facebook page of the website.
Check out the Google Map from Sofia to Kazanlak
Below you can see a map of the most used routes from Sofia to Kazanlak, if you prefer a slower and more picturesque route, I would recommend going through the road below Stara Planina. If you prefer to get faster to Kazanlak and would also want to stop by the beautiful Plovdiv, choose to go through the highway from Sofia to Plovdiv and then go towards Kalofer and then east towards Kazanlak.